CoursesVirtual Reality Lab
CIMS 2000 - 401 / ENGL 2951 - 401

Virtual Reality Lab

This course mixes virtual reality theory, history, and practice. Students read scholarship, manifestoes, and memoirs that examine virtual reality and other immersive technologies, stretching from the 18th century to today.

Thursdays, 1:45 PM – 4:44 PM

We explore virtual reality projects, focusing on documentary VR films, but also looking at narrative work, academic and commercial applications, and games. We learn the basics of creating fully immersive virtual reality documentary films. One major component is thinking through the emerging implications for communicating in virtual spaces. Finally, we take our skills into the community, collaborating with Philadelphia organizations to create virtual reality experiences.

In previous iterations of this course, we have worked with refugee resettlement agencies, the Penn Museum, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Students work collaboratively with Philadelphia organizations to understand the challenges they face in working with the local communities and the public. We then collaborate to create impactful virtual reality films. Previous films have told the story of an Iraqi refugee working as a guide at the Penn Museum and the experience of a refugee couple from Myanmar operating a food truck. We have also worked with curators from Philadelphia Museum of Art to create VR stories about objects in their collections. In every case, these are projects that seek to amplify the stories and voices of the partners in an emerging and increasingly important format: the metaverse.

For many students, VR Lab won’t end at the end of the semester. Students in this course and SNF Paideia Fellows will have priority when applying to work as fully-funded fellows of the summer VR Lab in Kenya and Ethiopia. In a project that has been developing since 2017, in Kenya students partner with students who live in the Kakuma Refugee Camp and attend the FilmAid Kenya film training program. Together, the refugees who are students in the FilmAid Kenya program and Penn students create virtual reality and other film projects that are used by the United Nations, the World Food Program, and other organizations to promote information about the camp and the refugee experience in East Africa. Since 2017, Penn student and the FilmAid students have continued to collaborate throughout the Penn FilmAid Kenya club, also known as Urafiki (or friend in Swahili).

Read Penn Today course coverage to learn more

Section Attributes
  • ENGL 20th 21st Century Literature (AE21)
  • ENGL 20th Century Literature (AE20)
  • NU Sector Arts and Letters (NUAL)
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